The research-engaged school

by Graham Handscomb and John MacBeath


Why should schools be interested in conducting research? In a climate in which teachers are working harder and longer hours and in which schools find themselves thinly stretched, what time and motivation is left for carrying out research? What’s in it for schools?

In an education climate that is moving more towards evidence-based work, this practically-based, easy-to-read article considers these questions and examines what the features of a school that is engaged in research might be. Handscomb and MacBeath intend that the article will help schools to recognise and acknowledge the enquiry and research activity that is already taking place in schools as well as challenge and identify areas for further work and development. Above all they hope that it will stimulate thought and promote research development.

The authors identify the features of research engaged schools. Their evidence for these features is based on their work of teachers who are currently engaged in research activity. The features have been grouped in the article under the following broad statements.

The research-engaged school:

  • has a ‘research rich’ pedagogy
  • has a research orientation
  • promotes research communities
  • puts research at the heart of school policy and practice.

The article gives a clear reasoning for why schools should be engaged in research, and provides a framework for ways to make this happen, including fostering research partnerships.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions might guide you in your reading of this article:

  • Throughout the article, the narrative is interrupted and readers are offered a series of reflective questions under the heading ‘Implications for my School’. Use these with your staff to explore some of the issues posed.
  • Look at the ‘Quick Health Check’ on page 11 to identify strengths and areas for development. Justify your decisions and come up with a plan of action.

Further information

UK’s Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education (CUREE)


Handscomb, G., & MacBeath, J. (2003). The research engaged school. Chelmsford, UK: Essex County Council Forum for Learning and Research Enquiry. (PDF added to Educational Leaders with permission.)

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